|MLA Rice in the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon|
The rising and at times acrimonious debate in the province on issues of Indigenous relations made for some of the theme of a statement in the Legislature from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice on Tuesday, with the MLA framing much her commentary on the topic of racism in the province.
Her comments which came on Pink Shirt Day as part of the Wednesday session in the Legislature were a mix of history and more recent events.
Brought to the attention of the Chamber through commentary she would appear to have seen in media, her travels into social media forums and even at the door to her own constituency office.
Browsing the comments below news stories about Indigenous people, it's apparent that racism is alive and well in Canada. Indigenous leaders not in favour of a particular project are called foreign-funded radicals and corrupt, while Indigenous leaders in favour of a project are called sellouts and corrupt.
It's a strange premise that Indigenous leaders are corrupt and can be bought. When the news stories about murdered and missing Indigenous women…. It surprises me how many comments blame the victims for the violence that ended their lives.
When the stories about residential schools, the day schools or the Sixties Scoop…. Faceless commentators rush to type: "Get over it."
Telling an Indigenous person to get over it is cringeworthy. Children taken from their homes, stripped of their language and culture, beaten, starved, assaulted — and people will dismissively say, "Get over it. It happened a long time ago,"
Even though the last residential school closed in 1984, in B.C., and 1996, in Canada.
As part of her statement for the Legislature of Wednesday, Ms. Rice also made note of the issue which is as close as her own constituency office in the Ocean Centre Mall in Prince Rupert, offering up some background on the situations faced by her own staff at the North Coast office
These racist sentiments are not just online. It sometimes shows up in my office. I'm proud to employ two outstanding assistants in my community office. They come to work every day ready to deal with an array of issues.
If it's a housing matter or if an issue with B.C. Hydro, I know that my staff will do their best to assist my constituents, no matter what their ethnicity, race, colour, creed or socioeconomic background. I'm troubled to learn of how often they themselves are subjected to racism — and not just by monitoring social media.
People declaring, "You're so well-spoken for an Indigenous person," or choosing to say hurtful things about Indigenous people in front of my staff, only to say, "You don't look native," when they speak up.
On this Pink Shirt Day, let's also acknowledge that racism is a type of bullying, and we also need to put an end to it — and also: don't read the comments.
You can view her comments to the Legislature from the Video Archive for the Chamber sessions here, the statement on Racism can be found at the 1:50 PM mark.
For more items of note from the North Coast MLA and her work in Victoria see our archive page here.